Licensing Parents: Can We Prevent Child Abuse and Neglect?

By Jack C. Westman | Go to book overview

Chapter 7
Juvenile Ageism

Youth is a wonderful thing.
What a crime to waste it on children!

-- GEORGE BERNARD SHAW

We can appreciate the humor in George Bernard Shaw's comment. Even children might smile. But if the words Jews, blacks, or gays were substituted for the word children, prejudice would be instantly apparent-and resented.

The fact that we do not recognize this slur against children illustrates the ingrained nature of juvenile ageism. Even when I point this out, you may still discount its importance -- after all we are just referring to children, and they are not protesting.

We are well acquainted with racism and sexism, and we are beginning to acknowledged ageism against the elderly. But the other form of ageism -- juvenile ageism -- is virtually unknown. It is concealed by our rhetoric that idealizes children as we largely ignore their interests in the affairs of the adult world. It is expressed when we view childhood and parenting solely through the eyes of adults.

The prejudice of juvenile ageism, which is as virulent as racism and as pervasive as sexism, is the greatest barrier to recognizing the interests of children in our political processes, in child caring systems, and in

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